Do You Torture Your Beads?

Warning:  This blog may upset sensitive beaders.

Have You Ever Tortured Your Beads?

Sadly, my answer is yes.  I adore beads, but that doesn't mean they are always safe in my care.  I spill beads onto the sofa and sit on them.  I vacuum them up.  Occasionally, I break them with my pliers.  Once, in a scene suitable for a beading horror movie, I dropped a new lampworked focal bead onto a cement floor and it broke.  Longtime readers will remember that I nearly burned my first attempt at making a stamped polymer clay pendant and turned the lovely ivory color into a smoky orange.  I don't mean to be mean, but it happens. 

At least, it happens to me.  Does it happen to anyone else?  Before I wrote this piece, I was pretty sure I was all alone in my accidental bead torture.  I mean, the editors of Stringing, Beadwork, Jewelry Artist, Step by Step Beads and Step by Step Wire Jewelry are frankly too nice to harm any helpless beads, right? 

Tales from the Magazine Editors

Even though I was pretty sure I was all alone, I couldn't resist asking the magazine editors whether they had ever tortured beads, wire, metal, or another material in their jewelry-making quest.  Here's what they had to say:

Looking for the silver lining.  (And looking and looking . . .)

I’m a big fan of matte-finished beads, so I will frequently buy shiny beads and throw them into an etch bath to give them that nice rough-hewn look. I once bought a beautiful mix of seed beads that had some silver-lined beads thrown in. I thought it would be so pretty to etch the outer glass and have the silver lining shine through like water on beach glass. That’s when I learned that etching solution destroys silver linings. Quite literally!
Denise Peck
Step by Step Wire Jewelry

Only the strong survive.

I test glues and adhesives from time to time for using pin backs or fixing beadwork to another piece of beadwork. I stitch little swatches, then slather on various glues to test for drying time, flexibility, and clarity once dried. Pieces are taped to index cards with notes on brands, test times, type of beads, etc. Then I try hard to pry off one piece from another. I use all sort of tools to really put the glues and beads to the test. Beads get broken, marred, scratched and, ultimately, only the strong survive!
Leslie Rogalski
Step by Step Beads

Saved by Photoshop. 

My one and only dalliance with peyote stitch wasn’t pretty. I found the stitch itself easy enough, but when I tried to attach a clasp to the end of my strip of peyote to create a bracelet, I went in and out of some beads so many times, I busted the poor things. Did I mention this project was to be featured in Beadwork’'s Challenge? And that I didn’t have time to remake the piece? Thank you, Photoshop!
Danielle Fox

She was such a nice, quiet girl, said neighbors. 

My favorite form of metal torture is to take a well-annealed sheet of copper out to the sidewalk and place it face down. Then, I proceed to bang the livin’ daylights out of it with an old ball-peen hammer. The texture (and stress relief) I get from this activity is amazing!
Helen Driggs
Jewelry Artist

It wasn't me: It was my dog.  Really.

I must admit that my all-too-curious dog actually committed a little bead torture. After spending almost two hours stitching a circular-peyote donut, I hurriedly ran out for an errand. When I returned, the donut was gone. My suspicions proved right—my dog must have found the donut and taken it outside for playtime because I later discovered it out in the yard, in surprisingly perfect condition. The nylon thread held up amazingly well after spending two days and two nights in the snow—the donut is just as tight as it ever was.
Melinda Barta

So, fess up–have you ever tortured your beads?  Share your stories on the website

Free Article
Bead Torture
by Sandi Graves

How can you tell which beads will fade, tarnish, or change over time?  The author exposed a number of beads to light, chemicals (perfume, detergent, nail polish remover, etc.), and friction and reports her results.  Includes tips on what to expect with certain types of beads from opaque seed beads to gemstones.  This article was originally published in the Winter 2000 issue of Beadwork.

Related Posts:


Beading Daily Blog
Michelle M.

About Michelle M.

I was the founding editor of Beading Daily (2007-2009) and my now a freelance designer/writer/editor.  My designs have been published in Stringing, Step by Step Beads, Jewelry Gifts for the Holidays, Creative Jewelry, Beadwork, and other magazines. I enjoy stringing, bead embroidery, wirework, metal work, mixed media, beadweaving—pretty much anything that involves beads or jewelry.  I also enjoy exploring new crafts like pottery and felting.  I write a personal blog if you want to see more of my work. 16+ Free Beading Projects: A list of the free projects I created for Beading Daily. Contact Info If you have a question regarding Beading Daily, please contact customer service at or the current editor, Kristal Wick. If you'd like to contact me, you'll find my info on my website:  You can also follow me on Twitter at: Pictured here is a pair of earrings I made for the Spring 2010 issue of Stringing in an attempt to get over my fear of designing with the color orange!

31 thoughts on “Do You Torture Your Beads?

  1. I just finished torturing some ceramic pendants that were going into the kiln. I managed to break five of them while I was giving them the final prep before the first firing–just a “gentle” sponging to remove dust. This is for an order that I’ve been trying to fill for 3 weeks, but each time something goes wrong–so I made lots of extras this time. Luckily I can just wet them down and use the clay again.

  2. I think I have you all beat. I had a piece of peyote stitch that I was working on for a barrette. One morning, I noticed our 6 month old golden retriever puppy constantly licking her lips in an odd way. When I examined her, I found a few seed beads in her mouth, attached to a thread. I began to pull on the thread and it kept coming, and coming…..yes, not only had she swalllowed the seed beads and thread, there was my needle, too! Thank God her chewing on it had created a little knot in the thread which kept the needle from slipping off the end of it.

    And no, I didn’t rework the part that was damaged! I let that one go in the trash!! But now I make sure that anything like that is way above her reach!

  3. I’ve tortured my beads, to be sure. One of the first beadwoven projects I ever made was a caudeacus (sp?) chain bracelet, affectionately referred to by me as the “Bracelet From Hell”. I started it in a weekly class I took, and took it home to finish it. While trying to finish it at home, I kept breaking my needles and breaking my beads. I finally managed to finish it and brought it back to class the next week to show it off. I was talking to everyone else there and asked them if they had as much trouble as I had during the embellishment stage of the project. No one could figure out why I broke so many beads and needles until I realized that, in my zeal to make the bracelet durable, I had used size D Nymo when the pattern called for size B. Hence, I was stuffing too much thread into those tiny little beads!

    I also tortured my lampwork beads for quite a while before my husband and I sprang for a kiln. I would cool them in a bucket or crockpot full of vermiculite. I lost some real beauties that way.

  4. I mostly torture may needles. They get caught with string on the on the roller of my vaccuum and spin around to the music of ting ting ting, your sure you’ve caught a marble.

  5. Michelle, what most people don’t realize about polymer clay is that it doesn’t get burnt by being in the oven too long (I bake beads for a minimum of an hour sometimes two) but rather that the oven is too hot.

    Most ovens aren’t the temperature inside that the dial says it should be. Plus they heat up and cool down so regularly that they are rarely the correct temp. Temp gets magnified by metal pans as well, so even if your temp is right it can be hotter for your beads than you think.

    You definitely need an oven thermometer in order to bake polymer clay properly and you need to check you oven often.

    There are ways to protect them from direct heat by ‘tenting’ them with card stock or placing flat sheets of clay between paper and ceramic tiles.

    Polymer clay baking is quite different than cookie baking and has it’s own little tricks, but it is easy once you know how.

    It is always sad to see beautiful pieces get wrecked in the oven. Hope this never happens to you again!

  6. I don’t think any of you torture your beads half as I do. I drive a semi truck over the road and keep my beads and wire, etc. in the truck with me. So as you can imagine, they get bumped, bounced, thrown, sometimes fall out of the cabinet, and stepped on when they fall off the bunk when I work on things. Maybe someone has an idea on how to keep my supplies in one place in a cabinet and from doing so much travelling in their storage boxes. Happy beading. Susan

  7. I recently enjoyed purchasing a strand of Amber at a local Bead Faire. When I brought the Amber home, I laid it on my craft table and went on with other household tasks. When I came back, my puppy had found the Amber and half of it was gone!!!! I couldn’t find it anywhere! The next morning I was cleaning up after my dog on her potty pad, when I saw something glistening in the sunlight. YES, you are right, she had eaten the Amber beads. I got my rubber gloves on and reclaimed the Amber. It soaked in Antibacterial Dish Soap and I just can’t bring myself to actually use the beads because of their past. Any suggestions?

  8. I broke a beautiful faceted amazonite teardrop pendant by trying to use a bead reamer to make the hole big enough to get 24 gauge wire through. The hole was really teeny, but I thought, hey, its stone, it won’t break. The tip snapped right off.

  9. Well, I’ve learned that while sort bags may not withstand Charile (my Basset/Beagle), most beads do. Thou I am still finding beads in the yard to this day that he stole up to a year ago. Ah, the joy of finding his latest treasrue was that bag of size 10 seed beads. Did I mention he loves to fling his finds. The good side is some glass beads I thought would be fragile due to being blown glass, are acctually fairly durable. The dog drool is just an added bonus.

  10. I not only torture my beads but ruin tumblers as well. When faced with the comment that pyrite chips could scratch one’s neck, I got the bright idea of tumbling them in my rock tumbler. Not only did the pyrite soften, it resembled heat-crazed paving material on a 90-degree day. The sludge in my rubber tumbler was blackend, oily, and imposssible to remove. I now have a new chamber for the tumbler and don’t use pyrite chips.

  11. I’m still not sure WHAT you were thinking in writing this blog topic today – And I’m further bewildered that the magazine editors even agreed to ‘contribute’! Shame on you….

  12. I still have some labradorite faceted rondelles that I decided weren’t shiny enough and threw in my tumbler. Needless to say, it ruined them–they just got rougher and rougher–and I keep them out of guilt!

  13. Both the cat and I have tormented the bead stash, though she never ate them, she would carry them around the house, (they make a nice tinkly kind of sound when they hit the uncarpeted stairs). Once in awhile I string 3′ or so of seed beads for tassle, she thought they were excelent kitty attire and I would have to chase her down to get them back. As for myself my best ideas happen when my desk is strewn with my entire stash (no baggies or anything). Be brave, give those little beads hell and see what you get.

  14. I don’t torture my beads so much as torment them. Sometimes I make beads with radically clashing colours sit next to each other for days at a time on my work surface, just so I can listen to them squeal. Bwa ha ha ha!

  15. I have tourture my beads but not that bad. I only have droped them on the floor and have to use the vaccume to pick them up. Also I have broked beads too. I remember when I was working on Christmas orderments and got mad because they would not go right so I put it in a box and it is still not done. I will finish it soon I think.

  16. This topic brought back one of funniest beading moments in my jewelry making history. When I started my jewelry business in 2004, I was trying out various techniques for photographing my jewelry. We wanted to take some outdoor photos and thought it would look really cool to hang some of the crystal chandelier earrings in the trees in the back yard. We had fishing line strung all over the yard from tree to tree, nails and hooks attached to branches, and about 2 dozen pairs of earrings all sparkling in the sunlight. When we were finished with the photo shoot, we were missing 2 pairs of earrings. We looked everywhere but couldn’t find them.

    Fast forward 2 years…
    My roommate and her family were taking photos in the backyard. Just as the photographer was ready to snap the picture, one of the kids asked, “Mommy, why are there earrings growing on the tree?” Sure enough, both pairs of earrings had weathered two years nailed to my tree! The Swarovski pearls and crystals cleaned up beautifully 🙂

  17. To Prescott Pearl – the worst is over….forget the history and use the Amber. ( Animals are not as diseased as humans & that is a medical fact! ) Maybe make your puppy a collar with some of the Amber in appreciation that she survived the ordeal? Hope my response helps you to reconsider.

  18. I recently became obsessed with making pendants and Scrabble tiles with collage materials. I had to send away for most things, so when they all arrived I was thrilled. I followed all instructions, but when they dried, all the brass pendants were blue – different colors of paper were used, but all turned blue for a reaons I cannot figure out., they were all reuined Then I spent hours cutting out oddles of little paper “tiles”, some I have stamped, some scrapbook paper and spent hours gluing them on, then when I put Diamond Glaze on, now matter how careful I was it bubbled!. So I tried every glaze I could get my hands on! Some left brush marks, some are nice, but the Diamond Glaze looks so nice, until I read also that water spots it! So days and days later I have a “few” nice ones and a ton that I would be OK with but would not sell them! So, back to other beading now!!!!

  19. My little imp ‘Cleo’ is the bead abuser in our household. She inhales her cat chow with such enthusiasm that sometimes it comes right back up before being digested (fortunately). Whereever she happens to be when the urge hits, that’s where the ‘gift’ lands. I have learned the messy way that if it’s not practical to put everything up when I have to stop working on a project, it better all get covered up with big towels or plastic! (In Cleo’s defense, she is a sweet companion when she sits on the table to watch me put together a new creation.)

    Pat C

  20. I usually always mangle my crimp beads! One time I’ll crimp it perfectly the next 10 times, it’s a mess! For some reason, I just can’t get the hang of crimping. I try to do it like the directions say, but they never look rounded after the first crimp. Most of the time now, I use the beads that have the screws in them just so I’ll have a neater looking project. I could use some pointers, or maybe I need another new crimp tool. That is just the hardest trick to master! Nancy B

  21. Yes, I torture beads, but I think it hurts me more than it hurts them! I was wearing this great smokey quartz and coral bracelet I had made to the playground, in a vain attempt to be a “pretty mom” once again! I helped my eldest daughter climb a swinging rope and only noticed much later that my bracelet was missing! When I returned to the playground, I found the beautiful, smokey quartz and coral beads GROUND into the mud by active little feet… RIP

  22. As I age I am becoming increasingly distractable. Several days ago I was working on a project and set a tablet of medication that I needed to take. I was then distracted by pretty beads for a few moments. Then I took the tablet and went back to the beads.
    After thirty minutes thought, “Gosh, my meds aren’t working, maybe I should take more.” I went back to my pretty beads. When it was time to pick up my pretty size 6 matt peach colored bead for the pattern it wasn’t there. But the pretty little peach colored tablet was!
    I’ve known for a long while that beads are quite therapeutic for me, but now I’ve also established that when taken orally they have no placebo effect!!!!!!!!!!!
    Sandi R

  23. Of course I torture my beads! It’s only reciprocal for all the times they’ve flown across the room, rolled under the piano or took flying leaps when I cough! But other than that, I treat them with a fair amount of love and respect. A detent has existed for a while now, and it seems I know my place relative to my beads (I hear, and I obey).

    In the Aug/Sep 2003 issue of Beadwork, I wrote an article (with the help of Jean Campbell) regarding an exibit I established at the Bead Museum in Glendale, 2000. It covers the wellbeing of beadwork as it ages. Maybe someone will find some help there too.


  24. Of course I torture beads and have learned a lot. But Please be ever so careful about the animals getting the beads. Our vet had us change the feed for our ferrets. They are the most stubborn animal when it comes to change of feed. Our Miss Hannah was not going to eat the new food, she not only nearly starved to death but then she became criically ill. $1500 dollars later she was alive but still on the critical list, she had to have a ferret to ferret transfusion for blood that took 8 hours to do and then she had to follow a certain diet at first called Carnivore Care made by Oxbow and she still would not eat anything else, then she finally did go to eating ferret food. What caused her to get so sick was simple she was so hungry because she refused to eat the new food that we thought she was and she ate some dyed seed beads that I had spilled on the floor and didn’t get all of them up. Eating the seed beads gave her lead poisning. To this day I feel horrible any time I think of this and I am extremely careful now but I will not forgive myself for putting her in such a life threating danger.Thank you for reading this and I hope it saves some other animal and an owner from going thru what we went thru and it wasn;t about the money it was about our family member who was so sick.

  25. I’m the Spanish Inquisition when it comes to bead torture. I’ve broken the tops off briolettes trying to make a wire wrapped loop – I’ve had beads shatter in my grip as I tried to enlarge the hole – I’ve broken more charlottes, seed beads and delicas than I can count, I often use them on the ends of wire wrapped segments and using my teeny tiny pliers to tuck in the end of the wire I have managed to break oh so many – I’ve broken so many stones trying to drill holes in them that you’d think I’d just give up trying, but no the torture continues. I had one of my puppies over for a playdate and as I was beading on the bed she jumped up, caught the corner of the tray and sent ALL the beads flying all over the room, before I could gasp and take it all in she had started eating them, like little very expensive puppy treats – My husband tripped over some wires, my fault, had no business leaving so many exposed wires on the floor – but as he started to fall forward his hand shot out and grabbed the top of a stack of trays with four different projects laid out and flipped all of them on to the floor – he’s a big guy and his very sweet attempt to try and pick up the beads resulted in many of them falling victim to his big feet, knees and hands – that was definately the worst. I could go on and on about my ruthless treatment of my poor bead stash but it starts to get repetative – Oh and to those ladies who have a problem with the use of the word “torture” LIGHTEN UP!

  26. I dunno. This is a great topic, as all the detailed and entertaining responses indicate. But, given the current national conversation, I was very put off when I opened your email and saw the word “torture”. This might have been more fun if the news weren’t pushing us to think about what torture really is and to recognize that our government has done it.

  27. Well, I debated about this one. I hope it will help some polyholics from making this same mistake. I began experimenting with using a tumbler to sand my beads to try to minimise the wear on my elbow; during the process I tried using woodworking supplies like parifin oil in the tumbler with a fine powder. Let me just say right now-DONT EVER TRY THIS!- It worked okay but my beads smelled like wax and it was pretty bad. That was not the end of it however….Are you sitting down? I decided to put my beads in a pot of water on the stove, thinking the wax would somehow come out of the polymer…. I can’t believe to this day that I put all 30 beads in the pot at once…. For those of you who are not familuar with the way caned beads are made, they are layers upon layers of complex canework overlaid onto a plain ball of clay and there is alot of work in each bead; well I only had them in the hot bath for a few minutes before I realized my mistake and it was too late! All the canework cracked and curled like the Sahara Desert! That’s right all of them! It broke my heart -and to this day it makes me sick that I did that. I learned that whenever I test a new method to only do ONE bead at a time!
    So to those of you who are newbies- know that even after 20 years of working with a medium it doesn’t mean we don’t make mistakes, they are just more expensive ones!
    ….They did look cool when I rescued a few with Copper plating though but most of them were not even candites for that process either.

  28. Burnt Offerings~ I had accidently moved the dial on my convection oven and burned a batch of polymer petroglyph beads I was working on, thankfully they ween’t completely burnt and it actually matched some jasper I had so I made them into a necklace….
    The beads seemed pretty happy~:>)

  29. I thought my recent experience would give everyone a chuckle. While visiting my son and d-i-l, I had left my beading tray with some Swarovski bead project I was working on. I left it for a minute and when I came back I found the bracelet and wire on the floor, but no needle. It appeared that their cat had been chewing on the wire as it was all chewed up. But, I couldn’t locate the needle anywhere. The next morning, my d-i-l woke me and said the cat was acting weird and she was running to the vet. Can you imagine my horror when she called me to tell me that x-rays showed the needle in the cat’s chest?! Thank God, the vet was able to withdraw the needle through the throat, no surgery! The office even sent home the needle in a test tube…

    I learned that cat’s are curious and love sparkly stuff and I will just have
    keep my beading projects at home. Don’t think anyone can top this one.

  30. I thought my recent experience would give everyone a chuckle. While visiting my son and d-i-l, I had left my beading tray with some Swarovski bead project I was working on. I left it for a minute and when I came back I found the bracelet and wire on the floor, but no needle. It appeared that their cat had been chewing on the wire as it was all chewed up. But, I couldn’t locate the needle anywhere. The next morning, my d-i-l woke me and said the cat was acting weird and she was running to the vet. Can you imagine my horror when she called me to tell me that x-rays showed the needle in the cat’s chest?! Thank God, the vet was able to withdraw the needle through the throat, no surgery! The office even sent home the needle in a test tube…

    I learned that cat’s are curious and love sparkly stuff and I will just have
    keep my beading projects at home. Don’t think anyone can top this one.